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October 17, 2013 9:55 pm

Israel Defense Forces to Develop Drone Submarines, Market Expected to Reach $2 Billion

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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An example of an autonomous underwater  vehicle, Saab's AUV62. Photo: Screenshot / Saab.

An example of an autonomous underwater vehicle, Saab's AUV62. Photo: Screenshot / Saab.

The department within Israel’s Ministry of Defense, tasked with developing next generation weaponry, MAFAT, is working on developing unmanned underwater vehicles, the market for which could exceed $2 billion by 2020, Israel’s Globes business daily reported, citing MAFAT aeronautics director Dr. Yuval Cohen.

UUVs include ROVs – remotely operated underwater vehicles that are operated by remote control – and AUVs – autonomous underwater vehicles which are  fully robotic, submarine drones, where Israel’s ingenuity could add the most value. As with Israel’s leadership in developing flying drones, the Jewish state could be very successful in this industry as well, but operating in the deep sea adds another level of complexity.

Flying drones are controlled from ground command or via instructions transmitted by satellite, but neither method works underwater. Undersea communication is acoustics-based, meaning very limited volume and range. The engineers at MAFAT, Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, will need to develop highly automated and independent navigation systems for the unmanned submarines to perform correctly.

The biggest market would be in mine-sweeping, Dr. Cohen told Globes. “The current response to this threat is slow and very expensive sweeps. Development of an automated unmanned submarine for efficient mine-sweeping, without risking human lives, should be very worthwhile and there is a good global market,” he said.

“Naval mines weigh hundreds of kilograms. They are big, but hard to see among all the detritus on the sea floor. It’s like looking for a needle in haystack. These are sophisticated mines, which activate themselves and explode at the acoustic signal of the engines of a ship passing overhead, changes in water pressure when a ship passes overhead, or magnetic mines, which attach to any metal ship. Until a shipping lane is fully cleared of mines, no one will sail in the area, effectively creating a naval blockade,” Dr. Cohen said.

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  • Matt

    How can a small country increase the submarine fleet to compete with the proliferation of subsurface vessels. UUV are the only cost effective way. At the end of the life of the Dolphins it is unlikely such deals will be agreed to that has allow the fleet to grow to such a level. In which case Israel will have to buy off the shelf or develop its own indigenous submarine. The fleet at minimum needs to be 12 and that will only grow. So the idea with UUV’s is they are carried and deployed of the hull of the submarine so a Dolphin can carry six, each UUV has it own torpedoes, cruise missile, remote mines. On mothership is its own wolfpack, 6 Dolphins equipped with the 6 UUV’s is a fleet of 36 submarines. Future indigenous submarines would be around 5500 tonnes allow 8 to 10 UUV’s to be carried. You add up the munitions for one motherwhip and wolfpack water ways such as the Straits of Homuz can be closed easily without the mothership being placed in danger. And it adds a whole new element to fleet protection and anti-submarine warfare.

  • Antoine Martin

    If you are interested in underwater autonomous vehicles and robots, you can see free articles and reference files at